Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 157

Tuesday 5th June 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. Got the bus at 8.30 and when I got into school we had to go in for hymn practice. Then we did some writing on D-Day. Had dinner at 12.00, then in the afternoon I drew a map of England and France, then started a painting about the Second world war.

I came home at 3.15 and read my Eagle, then I mucked on till I had tea. After that I went outside and played on the Strika, but I got a puncture so I tightened the gears up on the Chopper and played on that till 6.40m when I watched You can’t see the wood.

At 7.10 I watched Blankety Blank, then at 7.40 I watched Sorry. At 8.10 I went upstairs and recorded the Montreax Golden Rose Festival of pop II. Came down at 9.00 and watched The young ones, then at 9.30 I went to bed.

What a brilliantly 1950s-style day! I wrote about D-Day, did a painting ‘about the Second world war’ and read the Eagle comic. No doubt while wearing short trousers, listening to The Goon Show and eating bully beef and carrots. Actually, I still maintain that in the 25-year-gap between 1959 and 1984, not an awful lot changed in the UK. People, society, values, pastimes, transport, popular culture, and the ‘look’ of the country all stayed pretty much constant. However, in the 25 years between 1984 and 2009, things have changed almost beyond recognition. I blame technology, and that dratted internet…


(By the way, it was pointed out to me recently that Hi-De-Hi, the ultimate in ‘nostalgia’ sitcoms, was made in 1980 but set in 1959. If you made a misty-eyed TV comedy using the same ‘gap’ these days, it would be set in 1988. Doesn’t quite feel the same, does it?)

The reason for all this World War II-themed fun was, of course… anyone? Anyone? Well done, yes! The fortieth anniversary of the D-Day landings. The actual day itself was the 6th June, but the intensive TV and newspaper coverage had already started (Very Lynn was everywhere), and we were being given a gen-u-wine history lesson at school.  And why not? I can’t really remember my painting (other than the fact that, oddly, I did a lot of it with my fingers, obviously for purely artistic reasons) but my ‘map of England and France’ was, without a doubt, based on this…

I also remember, on this very day, Mr Millward asking us casually on which date the Second World War had begun, and me thrusting my hand into the air, grinning, and screeching ‘the 3rd of September 1939!!!!’ An action that had Doug rolling his eyes and whispering these exact words: ‘That’s such a swotty thing to know, you swot’. My Dad had taught me it, though… just because the date is an odd one – 3.9.39. Even as an eleven-year-old, I absorbed trivia like a sponge. Along with Jaffa Cakes, Monster Munch and Findus Crispy Pancakes.

By means of balance, I can offer up something a bit less savoury… this was, I’m pretty sure, the day on which Doug and I decided to launch a ‘club’. Levendale Primary School was usually rife with short-lived fan clubs dedicated to various strange obsessions. I guess, in the pre-internet dark ages, the only way to express your love of a TV show or a comic strip or a band was to join one of these strange societies, but for those who couldn’t bear to part with 75p to join the official Dennis The Menace Fan Club (or whatever) there was usually an underground, amateur, school-based club run by one of the more motivated fourth years.


I’m slightly ashamed to report, though, that the club that Doug and I decided to start wasn’t based on Dennis the Menace, or Star Wars, or Doctor Who, though. Oh no. It was called ‘THE SCUMMER CLUB’ and it was intended to be a lively collective of like-minded individuals with a healthy enthusiasm for taking the piss out of children more smelly, dirty and downright unpleasant than we were. We intended to produce badges with stained, cartoon Y-Fronts on them, and a monthly newsletter called ‘THE SCUMMER TIMES’ with Christopher Herbert as our first, grimacing cover star.

And was this the kind of thing that our grandparents fought on the Normandy Beaches for? Was it? WAS IT? Hmmm? (blushes, looks silently at feet). No, I didn’t think so.

OK, a couple of TV nuggets… after much brain-racking, I’m fairly confident that ‘You Can’t See The Wood’ was a David Bellamy series dedicated to the great British tree – its habitat, life-cycle and various uses over the centuries. A typically well-made bit of BBC1 Natural History, in other words. It sticks in my mind because this day was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase ‘you can’t see the wood for the trees’ and it just utterly bamboozled me. But the trees are made of wood! There, look! What do you mean, you can’t see the wood? There’s loads of it! In the trees! Stupid!!!  

Get back to your finger-painting, you scummer.


And yes, I taped the second instalment of the Montreaux Pop Festival onto a TDK D90 using my clapped-out cassette recorder pushed up against the cream portable TV on the floor in my parents’ bedroom. The only bit of it I can remember is Cyndi Lauper (with strange squares shaved into one side of her head) singing ‘Time After Time’ to a seemingly tiny audience. In the middle of the song, my Mum strode into the room carrying an armful of freshly-ironed laundry and said ‘Who the hell’s that? She’s bloody AWFUL’. It’s probably still on the tape somewhere.

And here it is, that very performance! Youtube won’t let me embed it into the blog, but you can watch it here…

It’s not that bad is it? I should get Cyndi Lauper to come round sometime and criticise my Mum’s ironing.


  Patsy wrote @

Grrrr… shows your age (YOUNG) if you think that nothing changed between 1959 and 1984 – Everything changed dramatically ! but I guess you had to be a teenager at the time rather than a kid to realise – the 60’s and 70’s were amazing, values, lifestyles (foreign holidays, music, teenager culture which didn’t exist before about 1956). We led the way for you lot ! Have you never heard of ‘flower power’ and the ‘love generation’ ?
OOh, I feel really angry if you think we were all like ‘Hi Di Hi’ which although an amusing show, got millions of things wrong being made years after the period in question.. I better stop before I get ‘really’ ratty ! I’m still impressed that you knew the date of the start of the second world war though 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

Oooh, controversy! I knew it was only a matter of time before my constant outrageous comments on this blog caused an angry backlash! (I’m joking by the way :-))

Obviously the 1960s changed things enormously in terms of pop culture, but I’ve just never been that convinced that it changed day-to-day life THAT much for people like my parents, who just carried on working and living pretty much as they’d done before. They were in their twenties in the mid-1960s, and just struggling to make ends meet in Middlesbrough, as their parents had done before them. I guess what I’m saying is that there wasn’t much evidence of flower power and free love on Teesside… 😉

My parents descriptions of being 11 in the 1950s just didn’t seem THAT different to my experiences in the 1980s. Obviously the music and TV was a bit different, but it was still records that you bought and played and programmes that you watched when they were on, and if you got bored then you went out and played instead.

Whereas I think my 1980s childhood would be almost unrecogniseable to kids today, just because of the way techonology has transformed their lives. 300 TV channels, constant internet access, mobile phones (with cameras!!!), games consoles, MP3s, IPods, TV On Demand… it’s just a huge welter of information and communication that seems to have changed absolutely everything. Or am I overestimating its influence?

Ha, I wasn’t suggesting Hi De Hi was notable for its accuracy! 😉 I just thought the weird timey wimey things with the year-gaps were interesting. Although nothing in the world will convince me that Gladys Pugh wasn’t real.

And we never went on holidays when I was a kid, let alone foreign ones. The first time I set foot on foreign soil was in 1992, when I was 20. Although ironically by writing this now I’m putting off my departure on a week’s holiday to France! We’re just about to set off driving for the Loire Valley, right now!

I’m taking my 1984 diary though, so I won’t be slacking on the updates… 🙂

Speak soon!

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Bob-I’m with you on the technology stuff. I totally get what you’re saying-but maybe it’s because I’m the same age as you ;p

I was lucky-had lots of abroad holidays when I was growing up (nothing flash-we were pretty tight for money too).Now I’m scared of flying and don’t travel-the irony 😦

Have a great time in france 🙂

  Fiona Tims wrote @

Forgot to say I was LOLing at your Scummer club. What a horrible child you were ;p

  bobfischer wrote @

I’m scared of flying as well! Hence a 14-hour drive to the Loire valley. Worth it though, I’m writing this from a dinky broadband connection in the middle of the most gorgoeus French countryside. All I can see from the window are miles of woodland and rolling fields. My family are all drinking red wine in the front room, and I’m here doing this…

  bobfischer wrote @

Must be my cosmic punishment for being such a horrible child. 😉

  Thing wrote @

I don’t know, I think many families were much better off materially by 1984 than they would have been in 1959 – much more likely to have a car, tape recorders, videos etc (well, definitely the videos), and I think it was at about that time that people were starting to have spare televisions in their bedrooms… oh, and there’s computers and computer games, which had both started to appear in some homes. The 50s and 60s saw quite an upsurge in consumerism and technology, although it started getting a bit less onwards-and-upwards in the 70s.

One of my memories of the D Day 40th Anniversary is of four veterans being interviewed about it on TV Am about this time. One of them was Spike Milligan, who chatted a bit about his experiences at the tie it was happening.

  Thing wrote @

“…at the time it was happening” that should have read. Sorry.

  bobfischer wrote @

Maybe it’s just my personal experiences that coloured me, then… although we had a car in 1984, we just had the one, and only my Dad was qualified to drive – pretty much the same situation my grandparents had been in in the 1950s. We definitely didn’t have a video recorder until the late 1980s, and although I had a computer, it was very much seen as a bit of ‘kids entertainment’… something I’d play on for an hour at a time (in the same way that I’d play on my bike) rather than the all-pervasive lifestyle thing that the modern PC has become.

The TVAM thing sounds great… it was always a treat to see Spike on TV, but I don’t think I can have caught this.

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